The Judean marketplace bustles with customers. The aroma of salted gefilte fish and the stench of human sweat fills the air. Jesus whips out His smartphone from beneath the folds of His linen robe, and tweets that He’s got a gig in downtown Samaria at noon. He’s going to donate living water to thirsty people fainting from the blistering heat. Christ updates His Facebook page with a photo of the tasty falafel Peter had for lunch. Yum. A catty Pharisee posts that Jesus is a pompous heretic on His wall. Jesus unfriends him. John texts Jesus a video of yesterday’s healing service. Andrew uploads it to YouTube. It got 1,500 likes! Good times.
Sounds a little strange? Perhaps. But if Jesus walked the streets of your hometown, would he use social media to convey His message? I wonder? Maybe...maybe not. I know an evangelist in a closed Middle Eastern country who has discipled over a million new Christians. Each of them came to faith in a chat room on the internet. My husband preaches in foreign countries via Skype and video and thousands have met Jesus, experiencing His love and power.
Social media has radically transformed the way we live and relate to others. Every facet of our lives is touched by technology.
So what are the pros and cons of social media? Can it be a delight or detriment to our spiritual lives and ministries? How do we use it judiciously?
Let’s start with a few pros. Procon.org was an eye-opening site for me.
- Social networking sites spread information faster than any other media.
- Social networking sites allow people to improve their relationships and make new friends.
- Social media sites help people find Christian mates and jobs.
- Being a part of a social networking site can increase a person's quality of life and reduce the risk of health problems.
- Social networking sites can facilitate face-to-face interaction.
- Social media can help disarm social stigmas.
- "Crowdsourcing" and "crowdfunding" on social media allows people to collectively accomplish a goal.
What about the cons?
- Social media enables the spread of unreliable and false information.
- Social networking sites can lead to stress and offline relationship problems.
- Social networking sites entice people to waste time.
- The use of social networking sites is correlated with personality and brain disorders, such as the inability to have in-person conversations, a need for instant gratification, ADHD, and self-centered personalities, as well as addictive behaviors.
- Social media causes people to be isolated and spend less time interacting face-to-face.
- Social networking sites facilitate cyberbullying, sexting and pornography addiction.
- Social media can aid the spread of hate groups.
So would Jesus use social media? This is a critical question.
If we live our lives online, we can easily distance ourselves from the needs and pains of others. Jesus knelt in the sand with the woman taken in the act of adultery and encouraged her to go and sin no more. He made mud pies and touched the eyes of the blind man. The leprous outcast filled with sores, pus and dirt, warmed at the tender touch of Jesus. Jesus showed us that loving people meant getting our hands dirty.
If we overfill our lives with media, we can lose the depth of our spiritual lives.
Psalm 1:2-3 says that the godly man’s “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” ESV
Do you know that Charles Spurgeon penned 1500 pages on the life of David? The largest Bible commentary I’ve seen today, online or offline, is 200-300 pages, usually double-spaced, printed in a jumbo font. Our shallow sermons and Bible studies, though relatable and creative, seldom delve beneath the surface of the text. Where’s the depth of study that characterized the Bible scholars of old?
What has God said to me about social media?
I must create silence and space in my life to hear God speak. I often approach God with a laundry list of requests I expect Him to fulfill. Then my iPhone rings. Praise and confession are lost in the stream of texts, e-mails and calls that interrupt my daily routine. If God were to speak, He would probably have to shout!
I have to stop texting and watching YouTube while waiting for my latte at Starbucks or standing in the grocery line. What if I took the time to connect with someone and invite them to church? Shocker…
Perfunctory “likes,” “comments” and “pokes” are not substitutes for loving people. Our friends need more than emoticons to encourage them. Surrender and solitude are essential practices to develop intimacy with God. Unplug and spend time before His throne. He’s waiting for you.